While hatha yoga is the most familiar kind of yoga practice in the West, there are five other distinct and individual practices for the purpose of unifying both body and mind.
Called the "forceful path" this is the yoga of physical well-being. In the modern Western approach, hatha yoga is used primarily as a form of physical therapy. It consists of asanas (postures), pranayamas (breathing exercises), and meditation.
Raja yoga is considered the highest form of Yoga. Raja means "royal", and meditation is the focal point of this branch of yoga. This approach involves strict adherence to the eight "limbs" or stages of yoga as outlined by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras. Raja yoga is also known as "classical" yoga. The practice of raja yoga typically starts with hatha yoga, which gives the body the needed health and strength to endure the more advanced stages of training.
Karma yoga is the path of service. The principle of karma yoga is that what we experience today is created by our actions in the past. Therefore, all of our present efforts become a way to consciously create a future that frees us from being bound by negativity and selfishness. We practice karma yoga whenever we perform our work and live our lives in a selfless fashion and as a way to serve others.
Bhakti yoga describes the path of devotion. Seeing the Divine in all of creation, bhakti yoga is a positive way to channel the emotions. The path of bhakti yoga provides us with an opportunity to cultivate acceptance and tolerance for everyone we come into contact with.
While bhakti yoga can be considered the yoga of the heart, jnana yoga is the yoga of the mind, of wisdom, the path of the sage or scholar. This path requires development of the intellect through the study of the scriptures and texts of the yogic tradition.
Tantra yoga is probably the most misunderstood or misinterpreted of all the paths of yoga. Tantra yoga is the pathway of ritual. In tantric practice we experience the Divine in everything we do. A reverential attitude is therefore cultivated, encouraging a ritualistic approach to life.
You need not be limited to one expression or path of yoga. You may practice hatha yoga, taking care of your physical body; while simultaneously including raja yoga by adding meditation to your practice; performing karma yoga by engaging in selfless service to others and cultivating the lifestyle of a bhakti yogi by expressing your compassion for everyone you meet.
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"Yoga for Beginners"
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